Lorry driver who caused death of 3 pedestrians likely blacked out due to heart condition: State Coroner

Wan Ting Koh
·4-min read
Lorry driver charged for causing accident at Yio Chu Kang that killed 3 pedestrians (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)
Lorry driver charged for causing accident at Yio Chu Kang that killed 3 pedestrians (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A lorry driver whose vehicle caused the death of three pedestrians after mounting a curb at Yio Chu Kang and crashing into them may have temporarily lost consciousness from a congenital heart condition that he suffered from, said the State Coroner on Wednesday (15 July).

This would have led to Xu Kai Xiang , 28, losing control of his vehicle and colliding into the pedestrians: Gina Chua Aye Wah, 58, her father Chua Cheng Thong, 86, and Yap Soon Huat, 63. Yap was a family friend of the Chuas and had been accompanying them for the elder Chua’s medical appointment at Singapore General Hospital.

All three died at the scene on 23 April 2018.

Delivering the findings on Wednesday, State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam ruled that the deaths were from an unfortunate road traffic misadventure.

She noted that Xu had been consistent in his account that he had suffered a blackout to the paramedics at the scene and to the doctors at the hospital.

Despite Xu’s history of his heart condition, he had defaulted on medical follow-ups for five years, the SC said, adding that his heart condition would have benefitted from timely medical attention. Xu underwent three heart operations before the accident.

On 23 April 2018, at around 9.35am, Xu was driving along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 towards Marymount Road when he failed to have proper control of his lorry along the three-lane road. His lorry mounted the left kerb outside Yio Chu Kang bus interchange, collided into the three pedestrians before hitting a stationary bus. It then veered to the right and collided into a bollard before coming to a stop.

Reports produced during the inquest showed that Xu could have been travelling at a speed of between 60kmh and 69 kmh at the time.

According to Xu, he had experienced a momentary blackout accompanied with heaviness in the head, blurry vision and an inability to keep his eyes open, right before the accident. His last memory was of travelling straight before he felt the impact on the front portion of the lorry.

When he regained consciousness, he realised he was in an “awkward position” with a broken windscreen and his right leg stuck. He then waited for the authorities before being conveyed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

While Xu claimed to have dozed off in 2017 while standing at his workplace for less than three seconds, he said he did not feel sleepy during the accident and had only taken two capsules of Panadol on the day of the accident.

No mechanical fault could be discerned from the lorry due to the extensive damage, but the tires were ascertained to be in a serviceable condition. The lorry, which belonged to Xu’s father’s company, had just been serviced the month before.

Xu has a history of heart disease which he was first diagnosed with when he was almost two years old. He was presented at the hospital for shortness of breath several times in the early 2000s. His last recorded visit before the accident was on 5 March 2013 when he was 20. Then, he had been free of symptoms and his electrocardiogram results were normal.

Asked why he defaulted on his follow-ups, Xu said that he had been working in China between 2013 and 2014. He later did not make the effort to schedule an appointment upon his return to Singapore as he felt fine.

According to an independent medical expert, Xu’s loss of consciousness was likely due to a heart event. While it would have been possible for a deterioration of the heart to be detected with regular follow up, some conditions might have gone undetected, said the expert. It was also possible for a patient to regain consciousness within seconds, the expert said.

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